Summary: Understanding Traditions in the Church
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
September 2, 2018
How many times have you heard: “Okay everyone, wash your hands and get to the table, dinner is served!”? Those instructions had nothing to do with religion or religious practice, did they? Washing our hands before eating is a matter of hygiene health precaution. Did we ever get away with getting to the table and eating without washing our hands? I certainly did, and you probably did too.
Well as we delve into today’s gospel reading, what we find is the Pharisees and scribes following Jesus around looking for any means of criticizing Him or accusing Him of violating Jewish law. As always, remember that Jesus was Himself a Jew. Here, Jesus and His disciples were accused of eating bread with defiled hands. They didn’t wash their hands before coming to the table. So, to understand fully the reason for this message, do not get confused about the prudence and common sense of washing hands but rather see the message that Jesus conveys as separating the common-sense TRADITION with doctrine.
I like what Warren Wiersbe says about this: “It was not the law that protected the tradition, but the tradition that protected the law”. The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1, page 133.
Even today, we see how certain traditions in the various denominations and church assemblies are practiced and protected as strongly as if they were pure biblical doctrine. Lest we be viewed as being divisive, we shall refrain from citing specific examples.
Jesus immediately rebuked them and quoted from Scripture:
Jesus quotes Isaiah: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.’” Mark 7:6
The prophecy of Isaiah: “Therefore, the Lord said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,’” Isaiah 29:13
As a quick summation of what I believe so far is that the Pharisees are using their interpretation of law/tradition as an expression of obedience to God. Cleanliness and bathing have deep rooted history in Jewish Law and Tradition. Certainly, the aspect of hygienics played a very important role in bathing and washing, as it does today. What we are reading, and understanding is how the Pharisees had taken ceremonial tradition to the extreme of creating man-made laws. It would appear, that among their thinking was the element of control and dominance.
Moving on, Jesus takes this opportunity to clarify a difference between law and tradition and how it is distorted to the point of defilement.
“When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.:” Mark 7:14-15
Dr. David McKenna says it well: “Jesus makes the ‘heart of man’ the source of sin.” The Communicator’s Commentary – Mark, Word Books, Waco, TX. Page 155
Jesus is saying that it isn’t what we ingest that defiles us. It is what our heart does with it. If our heart remains pure and we are not driven by some false teaching, improper motivation or sinful desires, we shall not be defiled. When we take in false teachings, with improper motivations or sinful desires and act on them, we most definitely defile ourselves.
The very first thing that comes to mind is that BIG factor that is always attempting to lure us and that is PRIDE. Maybe it’s just me but I see pride as the biggest downfall and pre-imminent stage to self-defilement. Kind of like: “That’s the way we’ve always done it and I will not change!” Taking a stand simply to have one’s way or refusing to consider another point of view is of course, pride personified. If traditions or methodology in church practice is not contrary to biblical doctrine, there is no reason to condemn it. Neither is there any reason not to modify it. The best practice for making changes is by consensus. To refuse to partake in a matter of seeking a consensus is in and of itself a matter of pride.
What shall we take away from this message today?
There are some good things to remember. It is so very important for us to remember that TRADITION is not LAW nor DOCTRINE. Tradition is not bad. We shall not waiver when it comes to basic bible doctrine. Keep in mind the practice of consensus, when it comes to change or entertaining new ideas and approaches.
Let us pray -